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Understanding the Moment

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April 22, 2021 11:01 p.m.

Thank you to everyone who’s sent in their reads on making sense of the post-Trump Era. I’ll be publishing more this afternoon. Keep them coming. My interest in soliciting these notes is that we are in a confused and confusing political-historical moment. It’s important to untangle that for anyone who is concerned about the country and civic life. It’s even more pressing for a news organization.

We owe a great deal to the insights and knowledge we gain from the social sciences, with their modeling, systems creation and statistics. But at core humans are a story-telling species. We organize the world around us through storylines, narrative arcs, the actions of individuals, the interplay of actions and reactions through time. This isn’t to embrace a “great man” theory of history. It’s not a comment on how history works. It’s a statement about how our brains apprehend, understand things – how we take the discrete facts we find and put them together into something that tells us something. Nor is it to relativize contending ‘narratives’, something that has long been the province of certain parts of the academic world and through a strange alchemy is now also pervasive on the right. Some narratives are truer than others. Many are deeply false. It is simply that we understand most intuitively through storylines, through the progression of events and the actions of people.

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